No One is Coming — Life is an Inside Job

No One is Com­ing to res­cue you from the life you have cre­at­ed. It’s your job to stop wait­ing and to begin mov­ing in a direc­tion you choose.

My first and most pop­u­lar book, This End­less Moment. Learn to live a full and sat­is­fy­ing life. 

Right up until she dies, there was a little sign on my therapist’s wall, which read, in lovely calligraphy,

No one is coming.”

When I first met my ther­a­pist, I was a Min­is­ter. (She hung out with me any­way…) Because of my pecu­liar bent, my ini­tial read­ing of the sign was influ­enced by reli­gious state­ments about the sec­ond com­ing, (some­thing I’ve nev­er believed in.) I got a strong image of Jesus descend­ing from the cloud.

I see sim­i­lar beliefs in Buddhism—which is clear­ly a phi­los­o­phy, not a reli­gion. If you’re a good doo­bie and fol­low the Pre­cepts, some­thing or some­one is going to keep you from any harm.

There’s a great gnash­ing of teeth, then, when some form of mag­i­cal res­cue doesn’t hap­pen. Life hap­pens, and the judge­ment that “This shouldn’t be hap­pen­ing to me” is where our lit­tle heads go.

I fig­ure we’re stuck with the mess we expe­ri­ence until we choose to un-mess it.

No one is coming.”

Anoth­er way to explore this con­cept is to con­sid­er the “res­cue fan­tasies” I and most peo­ple I know have.

A cheap and dirty exam­ple that occurred to me is actors in their 50’s get­ting plas­tic surgery, to look “young again,” yet end up look­ing like Jack Nichol­son as “The Jok­er.” Plas­tic surgery is a hoped-for res­cue from aging and death, two of the things The Bud­dha stum­bled upon which led to his explo­ration of suf­fer­ing and the end of suffering.

Sad­ly,” the plas­tic surgery is plas­tic. Far from look­ing young, their faces look look stretched and tight, like if they smiled, some­thing would tear.

And guess what? They’re still 50.

A for­mer client was on Long Term Dis­abil­i­ty for two years because some­one yelled at him in a meet­ing. He sat at home, depressed, hid­ing, wait­ing for an apol­o­gy. He thought an apol­o­gy would res­cue him—would cure his depression—and then he could return to work. For two years, he wait­ed for the res­cue he dreamed he deserved. For all I know he’s still waiting.

I know you’re
out there, somewhere

Years ago, anoth­er for­mer client put her life on hold for eight years. She quit her job, lost her pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship, got hooked on pills, etc., again wait­ing for an apol­o­gy. The crime? A co-work­er sug­gest­ed they share a room at a conference.

Now, before I met with her, she had griev­ed the propo­si­tion. The co-work­er apol­o­gized, which is what she asked for. So, she sued the guy and the agency she was work­ing for, because, she said, she want­ed him to apol­o­gize dif­fer­ent­ly.

I sup­pose I ought to add here that I’m not sug­gest­ing she shouldn’t have com­plained. I am sug­gest­ing that she was wait­ing for some­thing that would nev­er arrive—what she want­ed was for the propo­si­tion to nev­er have happened.

I helped her to get back to work and off the pills, but ther­a­py end­ed before the court case began. For all I know, she’s still waiting.

Many peo­ple obsess about mon­ey. “If I pay off the VISA, then I’ll be hap­py.” As opposed to being hap­py now. They’re end­less­ly wait­ing for the mon­ey genie to fix fis­cal stupidity.

Oth­ers are stuck in dif­fi­cult rela­tion­ships. They’ll do some­thing about them, “when the kids move out,” or “when things get bad enough,” or “when I can sup­port myself.” Of course, they aren’t doing any­thing now—you know, tak­ing cours­es or fig­ur­ing out how to sup­port them­selves. It’s all going to work out, appar­ent­ly, with no effort and by magic—when their fairy god­moth­er shows up.

She’s not coming.

Anoth­er pop­u­lar one is, “I’ll form the kind of rela­tion­ship you are talk­ing about, Wayne, when I find the per­fect per­son.” Oh, brother.

The “perfect person” is not coming, either. Elegant, moment-by-moment relating is the result of continual work, not fantasy.

It’s tough, life, espe­cial­ly when you put your life on hold, and des­per­ate­ly wait for all of the exter­nal cir­cum­stances line up like ducks in a row, until every­one behaves, until all the pieces fit, and there are no more prob­lems. “Boy, when all that hap­pens, then I’ll have a great life.”

I’ve got news. No you won’t. Because none of that is going to hap­pen. Life will con­tin­ue to pro­vide chal­lenges, and the rest of the peo­ple on the plan­et are not going to change so you can final­ly get on with things.

All of that exter­nal stuff doesn’t real­ly exist any­way, oth­er than as a fig­ment of your imag­i­na­tion. So wait­ing for an out­side res­cue is fool­ish in the extreme. The game is always and only in your head. 

The truth is, “No one is coming.”

We’ve been hand­ed a block of time, which is also a bit of a conun­drum, because all we can know is when it began. The oth­er end, the slip­pery end, comes when we die. Death hap­pens when­ev­er it shows up, and that moment could be tomorrow.

None of us have all the time in the world to learn to live our lives with elegance and presence. We’ve just got now. This minute. To simply be who we are.

This block of time is a pre­cious thing. It’s the place where every­thing hap­pens, one moment at a time. Here and now, we are encour­aged to be real, com­mu­ni­cate, have our expe­ri­ences, feel our feel­ings, make our judge­ments (—no way to get past this one. But, of course, we don’t have to act on our judge­ments, now do we??)

It’s about heal­ing rifts here and now, not some­time, when every­thing is per­fect. It’s about tak­ing risks, mak­ing changes gen­tly, right now—because there’s nev­er going to be “just the right moment.” There are just moments, like this one; you choose how you see it and use it.

Or, as Yogi Berra famous­ly said,
“When you reach a fork in the road, take it.”

Putting off the hard (or even the easy) deci­sions of life, on the assump­tion that clar­i­ty is down the road, is a sure recipe for waiting.

Like the play, “Wait­ing for Godot .” Each day, they wait, and talk about what won­der­ful things will hap­pen when Godot final­ly arrives. They wait. They leave. They come back the next day. They wait. And talk of all the won­der­ful things they’ll accom­plish when Godot gets there. They wait.

He nev­er arrives, because he’s not coming.

So, what are you wait­ing for?

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